Aaron Young is pretty certain he knows why we only hear the extremes in the gun debate.
“The middle’s not real sexy,” he said. “Nobody wants to tune in to Fox News to hear, ‘Reasonable man talks gun control.’ Not a lot of red meat there.”
Meat, however, is the main reason Aaron is a gun owner. He hunts. And what he hunts, his family eats.
“If we needed me to kill all our food, we’d all weigh a lot less than we do,” he said, laughing. “It’s a good fallback position.”
He shot his first gun when he was around 10 years old. He now owns six shotguns and a .22 rifle. They’re locked up in a massive gun safe with a couple of handguns, owned — ostensibly — for his wife, Anne Kobbermann, and him to defend their Lenexa home if necessary.
“I mostly just use it to shoot targets,” Anne said. “I’m pretty confident I would never actually defend our house with it.”
Anne is a physician who, as a surgery resident, saw firsthand what guns can do when turned on human beings. Aaron is a former construction manager who recently completed his law degree.
The Youngs have two children, Lincoln and Reagan. Aaron says a few neighbors have looked at him like he’s the worst parent in the world when he mentions both kiddos have held and, under supervision, fired firearms.
Nonetheless, before the kids bring a friend over to the house for the first time, Aaron lets their parents know there are firearms locked up in a safe in the home.
“There have been a couple of parents, after their kids have come over for the first time, who have contacted me and said, ‘So-and-so had a lot of fun, but we’re uncomfortable with the fact that there are firearms in the house, so we just won’t do that anymore,’” Aaron said. “Totally OK with that. Everybody has their own perspective.”
Aaron is contemplating a run for the Kansas legislature as a Republican, and his views on gun ownership are slightly more nuanced than the current crop of GOP legislators. He’s not a fan of the statehouse saying it’s OK to carry on campus and in hospitals.
“Anymore in Kansas, you don’t need to get a concealed carry permit because we’ve decided apparently that it’s OK for people to carry firearms everywhere,” he said.
And he doesn’t buy some of the National Rifle Association rhetoric. Stuff like “The only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” That’s exactly what a lot of folks trotted out a few weeks ago when an off-duty KCK lawman shot and killed a man brandishing a weapon in a nearby Costco.
“That ‘good guy with a gun’ was a police officer, trained and licensed to carry that weapon and intimately familiar, one would assume, with the legal ramifications of killing a human being,” he said. “You can’t really conflate ‘bad guy with a gun/good guy with a gun’ on to that scenario because it’s not the same thing.”
For Aaron, it’s about responsibility, first and foremost.
“If I own a gun, it’s my job to secure that weapon,” he said. “It’s my job to ensure that whoever uses that weapon, uses it responsibly and for the right reasons.”
To that end, owning certain kinds of firearms and apparatus such as bump stocks and high capacity magazines doesn’t make sense to him. Neither does the idea of using a firearm to kill someone.
“Being in that place psychologically where it’s OK to take a human life seems obscenely foreign to me,” he said. “I have never thought that the issue that we face in our country is a gun issue. We’ve got to do something with the way we deal with mental health, because it is not a natural progression of any emotion to feel like killing another human being is an appropriate response. That’s never OK.”